Nothing turns a family’s life upside down like having a child diagnosed with cancer. Every day, 43 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer, according to cancer.gov, and cancer is the deadliest disease for children past infancy in this country.
Leverage for being overcharged
The app taps into U.S. and European Union pharmaceutical databases to give users access to pediatric-cancer medication information and prices. The free app was launched on May 30. It’s available for Apple and Android devices.
Software developer Anthony Conti, co-founder of The Purple Society, oversaw the app’s development for more than a year and a half. The app can help give families leverage if they think they are being overcharged for medications.
“(A pediatric drug) may sell for $50 a pill on a national average, but if you’re in a small regional hospital, or if you’re in a large city-center hospital, you may be paying $900 for that same pill,” Conti said. “It’s very difficult to uncover that information publicly.”
Daughter battled brain cancer
Conti and his daughter, Natalia, started the Scottsdale-based foundation around 2010, when Natalia was battling brain cancer. The non-profit is named for her favorite color. Natalia was 14 at the time. She died in 2011 after an eight-month coma brought on by seizures.
Conti said he discovered the wide price variation among cancer drugs when Natalia was prescribed a drug named Erlotinib.
“We found such a price discrepancy between hospitals that we went into, and it really threw a red flag up to us,” Conti said. “It all really depended on if we were getting Erlotinib or if we were getting the brand name (Tarceva).”
While Natalia was in treatment at St. Jude’s hospital in Memphis, a pill of Erlotinib cost about $19. Once they came back to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the brand name Tarceva cost $175 a pill.
“Just because you have this information as a patient doesn’t mean that the hospital is going to lower their price down,” Conti said, “but it does allow you to approach with knowledge.”